Definition - What does Champagne mean?

Champagne is a French city located southwest of Paris and bordered by the major city of Le Mans to the west. It boasts a lower average temperature than any other French region, garnering it the title of a cool-climate viticultural area. Champagne, as the name entails, is famously known all over the world for being the only official European producer of sparkling wine labeled as "Champagne".

Contrary to popular beliefs, Champagne wine was not actually invented in the region. Legend has it that it was the monks from Languedoc who brought the method and technique of producing sparkling wine to the region. They soon discovered that chalky soil and climate in Champagne was favorable for the infamous bubbly.

Champagne’s history of wine production is lengthy, as it back to the middle ages. The principal grapes grown in the region include the popular Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The laws of EU and other countries exclusively reserves the term Champagne for the wines that are produced from the region. Apart from its core champagne appellation, the region is also known for production of still wines such as Rosé de Riceys and Coteaux Champenois.

WineFrog explains Champagne

It is a known fact that no region has been made so popular by a local product as much as Champagne. The cultivation of grapevines in Champagne are legally divided into five wine-producing districts within the province:

  • Aube - produces Pinot Noir in marl soils, less acidic aromatic wine
  • Côte des Blancs - produces mostly Chardonnay with higher acidity in chalk based soils
  • Côte de Sézanne - produces mostly Chardonnay in both marl and chalk soils
  • Montagne de Reims - produces mostly Pinot Noir
  • Vallée de la Marne - produces Pinot Meunier.

Champagne has 17 sub regions, and viticulture boundaries of Champagne cover around 3,500 hectares of fertile vineyards, all of which are home to roughly 5,000 growers located in 319 villages. The classification of Champagne, known as Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), was developed in mid 20th century in order place prices on grapes throughout the Champagne region and to protect Champagne’s interest and monitor regulations for vineyard production and vinification methods.

The classification notes the village the vineyards are located in and a percentile system, Échelle des Crus, was developed to act as a pro-rata system to determine prices of the grape. To date, Champagne is the only region allowed exclude Appellation de' Origine Contrôlée (AOC) from their labels.

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